Fairfax ordered to pay $350,000 to teacher wrongly identified as having sex with students

FairfaxFairfax has been ordered to pay a female Catholic school teacher $350,000 in damages after a story in the Sydney Morning Herald in January wrongly identified her as having had sex with male students.

Although Melinda Pedavoli, who works at Aloysius College on Sydney’s north shore, was not named in the story, information including her age and subjects she taught led to her being wrongly identified.

However, the article got some of the details about the teacher who was the subject of the allegations wrong, including her age, meaning she did not fit the description.

The Sydney Morning Herald reported that NSW Supreme Court Justice Lucy McCallum said Pedavoli had been “grossly defamed” and her reputation “greatly damaged” by the story, which ran in January.

“She is entitled to a large award of damages and to have the court declare to all the world the falsity of that which has been imputed to her by the newspaper,” she said.

In its defence, Fairfax said it had offered to publish an apology and give Pedavoli $50,000 after becoming aware of the blunder, an offer she refused. In court, Fairfax used a defence under the Defamation Act called failure to accept an offer to make amends.

Justice McCallum rejected the argument, saying it was not unreasonable that the teacher refused the offer.

A Fairfax Media spokesperson said: “Considering all of the circumstances this is a very disappointing result. We have yet to make a decision regarding appeal.”


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